Antigua Test abandoned as a draw

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The first Test was humiliating for England. The second for West Indies as it was halted after only 10 balls on Friday then abandoned as a draw.

Updated: February 16, 2009 09:01 IST
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St John's, Antigua:

The first Test was humiliating for England. The second for West Indies.

The second cricket Test was halted after only 10 balls on Friday then abandoned as a draw because the ground at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, especially the bowlers' run-ups, was potentially dangerous.

The series was then extended by one Test to five, with the third to begin on Sunday at Antigua Recreation Ground, which began receiving hurried preparations.

"It's definitely embarrassing," West Indies captain Chris Gayle said. "I apologize to the spectators as well - it's a huge turnout and everybody wants to see cricket. It's really disappointing to see these things happen.

"I am not surprised about the conditions because when we were doing some fielding drills it wasn't suitable at all."

Once the Test began, West Indies bowlers complained that they could not keep their footing on what was a thick layer of sand in parts.

"The umpires spoke to both captains and said that the ground was not fit for Test cricket," said England captain Andrew Strauss. "If a bowler can't bowl at full speed then a ground is not fit."

The surface at the ground, built for the 2007 World Cup, was relaid in October to correct drainage issues and the grass had not grown sufficiently since, which led to huge volumes of sand being spread on to the outfield.

Watching Friday's debacle unfold was Haroon Lorgat, the International Cricket Council chief executive.

"It's clearly the West Indies Cricket Board's responsibility to make sure it is fit to play," Lorgat said. "They must take responsibility for it and we will have to follow the process now. It is not good enough."

The WICB could be subject to a warning, fine or suspension of Sir Vivian Richards Stadium as an international stadium from the ICC.

Both teams noted the potential risks in the outfield on Thursday but thought they could still play with caution. But Hugh Morris, the managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said he wrote to West Indies authorities on Thursday expressing concern.

"I don't think there was any doubt there was a problem before we came here with the sand on the ground but everyone thought it was OK," said match referee Alan Hurst, a former Australia fast bowler. "No one had bowled on the wicket to Test it out. It would have been jumping the gun to say it was unfit before the start of play.

"The bowlers were struggling to get any sort of grip at all and were going through the sand. Obviously it was dangerous so that decision had to be made then."

The farce recalled the abandoned Test between England and West Indies in 1998 at Jamaica, which was previously the shortest Test ever. That lasted 10.1 overs and became the first Test in history to be called off because of the state of the pitch.

"It's not right that Test cricket matches can be abandoned and lessons must be learned," Strauss said.

But both sides also held reservations about Antigua Recreation Ground, where they practiced for the past three days.

"The field wasn't up to standard there as well," Gayle said. "It was a bit bumpy because, from what I gather, there is a lot of football played there.

"Even the wicket, there were a couple ridges in the wicket as well, you had some uneven bounce."

Strauss also said it was not in a "great state."

"But I think in terms of potential injuries or whatever, I think it is fit," he said. "We don't know what state the wickets are like there.

"But I think it is fit for bowlers to run in on and batsmen to play on and fielders to field."

Officially, the second Test was a draw after England scored 7-0 in 1.4 overs.

West Indies won the first Test by an innings.

The last two Tests at Kensington Oval, Barbados, and Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad, were as scheduled.

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